NCAA Tournament

Final Four game previews: Gonzaga-South Carolina, North Carolina-Oregon

Gonzaga players answer the question, 'What is a Gamecock?'

Heading into the Final Four, Gonzaga players were asked if they knew what South Carolina's mascot was.
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Heading into the Final Four, Gonzaga players were asked if they knew what South Carolina's mascot was.

National semifinals

At Glendale, Ariz.

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina

Time/TV: 5:09 p.m. Saturday on CBS

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What to watch: This Final Four marks the first time since 1996 that two programs are making their Final Four debut, and the teams meet in the first semifinal. Gonzaga has been sentimental favorite for years, the ultimate little program that could. This is the most complete team in Mark Few’s 18 seasons in Spokane, Wash., and a terrific offensive team that shoots nearly 51 percent for the season. It will be interesting to see how their shooters handle the unique setting of a football stadium. Nigel Williams-Goss runs the show, but Gonzaga is rugged up front with Przemek Karnowski, Johnathan Williams III and Zach Collins. South Carolina has been a defensive machine, forcing an average of 17 turnovers per NCAA Tournament game. For the season, the Gamecocks average 18.1 points off opponent’s turnovers, the nation’s second-best figure. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell is a matchup problem but far from South Carolina’s only weapon with P.J. Dozier averaging 15.3 points and Chris Silva at 13.0 during the tournament.

Prediction: Gonzaga 73-67

South Carolina coach Frank Martin describes the "surreal" feeling of making his first Final Four with the South Carolina Gamecocks.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon

Time/TV: 7:49 p.m. Saturday on CBS

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What to watch: The Ducks have reached college basketball’s final weekend for the first time since 1939, when they won the inaugural NCAA Tournament. Oregon upset top-seeded Kansas in Kansas City last weekend, getting outstanding play from big man Jordan Bell, who blocked eight shots in the game, and shooters Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey. Dorsey is averaging 24 points in the postseason. Can Oregon match up with the Tar Heels inside? North Carolina leads the nation in rebounding margin at plus-13 per game and North Carolina is 31-3 when it outrebounds opponents. The Tar Heels are terrific on the offensive glass, averaging 15.4 per game and have scored 20 or more second-chance points in 16 games this season. Point guard Joel Berry II said he’ll play on an injured ankle. North Carolina is hitting just 32 percent on three-pointers in the tournament. The Heels have found a new star in Luke Maye, who has come off the bench all season and was chosen most outstanding player of the South Regional. He provided the game-winning bucket in the title-game victory over Kentucky.

Prediction: North Carolina 80-76

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff